Saturday 17 August 2019

Changes to gambling law is fuelling fears of money laundering

TDs told increasing the maximum stakes on betting machines will lead to money laundering

GAMBLE: Fixed odds machines. Stock picture
GAMBLE: Fixed odds machines. Stock picture
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Gambling bodies are concerned an increase in the maximum wager allowed on betting machines would lead to increased money laundering, according to correspondence seen by the Sunday Independent.

TDs have been told the controversial Gaming and Lotteries Bill would enable criminals to place bigger bets and make greater gains on their wins if they look to conceal money generated through crime, if stakes are increased on addictive gambling machines.

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It comes after the National Lottery met with public representatives to make them aware of its issues with laws proposed by the Government.

A presentation given to Oireachtas members seen by the Sunday Independent shows officials at the National Lottery are concerned the Government's Bill will lead to a "cannibalisation" of its games. It told TDs and senators it wants the Government to clamp down on gamblers betting on its games with bookmakers. The National Lottery claims such games cost €110m in lost revenue for its good causes fund.

Separately, representatives acting on behalf of the Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland (GLAI) have contacted TDs about concerns surrounding increased wagers on electronic betting machines.

The GLAI previously hit out at the proposals because they would allow for bets 333 times more than is currently permitted to be placed on the addictive machines.

Under the original terms of the Gaming and Lotteries Bill, the stakes would rise from three cent per spin to €10. The amendment allowing for the increase was withdrawn before the Dail took its summer break but is set to be revisited in September. In a letter sent to TDs and senators, the GLAI said "this is particularly concerning considering that Ireland has the third highest losses per capita globally.

"This presents not only a significant consumer protection risk but also a significant money laundering risk," it added. A Department of Justice spokesman said there is "robust anti-money laundering legislation in place" and gaming machines are not currently a significant avenue for such activity.

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said an increase to €10 is too high and could encourage dangerous gambling. "When legislating for specific figures, no matter what figure one puts in, even if it is low, one must not drive people into other forms of gambling," he said. The National Lottery said it is happy with proposals that would allow charity lotteries, such as those run by GAA clubs, to increase the size of their prizes. However, it wants legislation to clamp down on bookmakers taking bets on its games.

"In the UK and any other jurisdictions the relevant national lottery is protected in law from competition from bookmakers," a spokesman said. "As a result, their good causes funds are also protected. Many of the bookmakers operating in Ireland have successful operations in the UK operating under these restrictions."

Irish Bookmakers Association chairperson Sharon Byrne said the National Lottery's position is "disingenuous". "We are looking at a very different customer who is looking to spend less than the price of a Lotto ticket on the games we offer. We don't consider our games to be competing with those it offers."

Sunday Independent

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